To be afraid of someone. To be afraid of people. To have any kind of social phobia or social anxiety. To be too afraid of even saying hello, or so much as muttering a word.
Without the ability to coexist with others – to be around them, among them, interact with them – a worthwhile life is not possible. Your best life is not possible…
And there’s nothing worse than it – to be afraid of people, to have a fear of people.
Because wherever you go, and with everything you have to do in life, they’re there.
Growing up, my aunt nicknamed me “Anti-social”.
I couldn’t talk to others. I couldn’t look at others. And the simple thought of saying something – anything – to a stranger horrified me.
I was scared of people. Legitimately fucking scared.
I’d tighten up. I’d shake. My stare would go to the ground. My voice would fail me. My mind would race.
I’d do anything to avoid it – the awkwardness, the anxiety, the horror.
And I did.
I did so much to avoid others, to go out of my way to avoid situations I knew I could not handle, or felt I did not want.
And though I hated myself for it, I hated the thought of doing any different far more. And for 22 years or whatever, this thing in me – this phobia, this fear – haunted me.
That I couldn’t handle it.
That I couldn’t change it.
That I couldn’t break it.
It took a lifetime for me to realize what I was doing to myself; what I was letting these others do to me…
Take a look…
…at this man for a second. Are you afraid of him? Does he make you tremble? Would you be nervous if he were there with you? Are you scared?
Believe it or not, there are 676,000 people who’d likely say yes. But why…?
I was reading an article the other day and it got me thinking (I hate when that shit happens):
That if this man passed you in the street, you’d think nothing of it, right.
He’d just be a man to you. No different than any other. No more threatening than any other.
Maybe you’d think he was a business man – an old-ass business man. Or maybe a preacher, a neighbor, anything.
Mostly, though, he’d just be some guy.
You would pay him no mind or any consideration. He would mean nothing to you, and be nothing – just like the countless other people you see or come near everyday.
Cause he’s nobody to you. And if he stopped you in the street and told you to do something, you probably tell him to get the hell out of your way.
But that’s not the case everywhere…
It’s not the case in Equatorial Guinea.
Cause that man isn’t quite like the others you pass in the street every day.
That man is Teodoro Obiang Nguema, President of Equatorial Guinea, a tiny little nation on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa.
He’s ruled for 32 years with what most might call an iron fist. He’s plundered the state of billions. He’s responsible for the deaths of thousands. His people live in poverty, while his children buy Bugatti Veyrons with money they “earned”.
Pretty nice work, actually…
But it isn’t even…
This is Omar al-Bashir, President of Sudan (the Northern one). When he’s bored, sitting around the massive palace he calls home, he decides to eliminate entire populations in his country.
You may have heard of Darfur.
It’s simple the reality of the world we live in that there are far too many more of these kinda men; men who’ve risen to power, or more likely taken power, and refused to give it up; who use their power to enrich their families, crush their enemies, and subdue their people.
They eliminate opposition groups, rig elections, and hold their people in poverty to erase in them the idea that better is possible for their country, or for themselves.
And it works somehow. For decades and decades. For generations even.
But how exactly? How are these people able to do such ridiculous things despite the fact that there are thousands (or millions) in their country who don’t want it.
The obvious answer is fear, right?
They’re able to maintain and strengthen their power, and even pass that power to their children, through fear and fear alone; through the idea that if someone were to speak out, act out, or rise up they would be hurt, imprisoned, or executed. Their families would be put in danger, and their friends put in harm’s way. They would lose their state jobs, their freedoms, their very lives.
Except, not really.
It can’t be that alone. It can’t be fear and fear alone that explains it.
Because though these dictators may rule through fear, they cannot maintain that power through fear only.
…at Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
This man has killed many who spoke against him, sent countless men and women away – to prisons, to work camps, to wherever he thought necessary to shut them up forever.
Except he hasn’t at all, right?
Cause when someone angers him, or disobeys him, it’s not him who hurts them, is it? It’s not him who pulls the trigger or imprisons the person.
It’s some underling, right?
Obiang gives an order, and some hired goon who lives with the same fear as the person he is supposed to hurt, does what he is told.
They all do. Thousands of people do what he commands either because he pays them to, or because they fear that if they do not do as he pleases, someone else he pays will do it for them, and hurt them too.
But how weird it is to fear him at all, when in fact he himself does nothing to harm you; when in fact he can’t do anything to harm you.
He’s maybe 5’10″.
Maybe 190 pounds (I’m being generous here because I have no freaking clue actually).
And of course, he’s elderly as hell.
But mostly, he’s just a guy. Not some giant. Not some superhuman. Not some dude who can vaporize populations with a thought or shoot lightning from his hands.
One person vs. 676,000.
The great and mighty Obiang (he says). Who’s in communication with the Almighty (he claims). So rich, and powerful, and scary.
Yet…if you pushed him over he would struggle to stand.
He’s an old man.
He’s just one man.
He’s just a man.
…he literally control over one-half million people? How can he cause them to fear him, who is nobody? How can the apparatus he’s built stand at all, when it’s foundation is illusion?
He’s able to do it, though, not just because so many are afraid, but because so many are willing to be weak.
They’re willing to give what power they have over their lives to anyone who will command it.
He – like all people – has no power but the power given to him – the power we others collectively decide to surrender to him.
That is the fear of people – the surrender of your power from you to another.
This man – no different, or wiser, or stronger than any other – keeps power because his people do not realize that he has none at all; that they – through their collective fear, and their collective weakness – have given him everything he has.
He couldn’t simply take it.
No man could.
Not the largest, not the strongest, not the richest.
And certainly not old man Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
He couldn’t just walk into the presidential palace and claim it was his. He couldn’t just reach into the state bank and say “this money is now my money”. He couldn’t simply stand in front of the army and say “you now fight for me, you now do as I say, you now carry out my orders”.
He needed permission.
In some weird freaking way – in some genius freaking way – he needed permission.
And it was the people who gave him everything – their power, their money, their lives. They said take what you want and have what you like.
Not literally, of course, but through their inaction, through their fear, through the power within themselves that they have surrendered.
…in life, those people we fear are those we have no reason to fear. People who can’t hurt us. People who can’t affect us. People no different than any other, no better than any other – who we give power over our selves, over our emotions - because we fear them.
Strangers we give everything, because we think they mean something.
But in surrendering your power to another, you create something of a dictator in your own life – someone to bow to, someone to cry because of, someone to fear – never realizing that the person that scares you is has nothing of the importance you believe.
Or that the dictator you kneel to, is but an old man, who couldn’t defeat even the guards who defend him.
Think of your boss, then.
Think of your parents.
Think of the cool people.
Think of the hot guy or girl.
Think of anyone or any situation with others that scares you.
These people have no power over you but the power you give them. They hold no sway over you but the sway you allow. they have no ability to affect you but the ability you gift them.
They are nobody, until you make of them – in your mind - somebody.
Someone to be afraid of or cower to. Someone to cry over, or pine for. Someone to fear.
As if you were weak.
As if you had no control.
As if you were the nobody.
And – for the sake of ridding you of the thought that these people are worth fearing – fuck them.
Don’t be subject to some dictator.
Don’t be afraid of some nobody.
Don’t be scared of people.
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